PhD candidates powerful performers

26 November 2021 | News

PhD study may carry a heavy workload at times. However, Lincoln doctoral students Katie Pitt and Brittany Graham can handle the mahi.

And they have got the medals to prove it, balancing their studies with some title-winning performances in strength competitions.

Brittany has just become Canterbury’s strongest woman after winning the strongman /woman title open division, while Katie has been Canterbury’s strongest Under-73kg female for the past two years

Katie is also Auckland’s strongest woman and New Zealand’s second strongest in the weight division. Brittany came second in the open division in Auckland.

Both are doing PhDs in conservation and ecology, specifically pest control.

Brittany was among the six postgraduate and post-doctoral researchers awarded $2.4 million in Jobs for Nature funding to help efforts to eradicate pests. recently.

Her work involves investigating the integration of control tools, such as traps and bait stations, and attractants, such as audio, social and food-based lures, to optimise ground-based pest control.

Katies’ PhD will be looking at creating more biodegradable and sustainable options for pest mammal monitoring and control and looking at ways to add sustainability into policies.

Katie has been participating in strongman for around two years.

“I had been training with my coach, Dennym Kara, for a year-and-a-half when I decided Brittany would be a great fit for strongman as well and dragged her along with me.”

 “I train 4-5 days a week, leaving uni at around 4pm to train from 4:30pm-6:30pm. “

“Most days consist of strength training with some cardio and conditioning added in if we need it for a competition – pre-covid competitions would be 4-5 times a year, which gives us plenty to train hard towards and are all over New Zealand.

“It can be a balancing act especially towards the end of semester but being able to exceed in both studies and competition makes it all worth it.”

Brittany said she hadn’t planned  on doing strongman or competing but got “roped into it”.

“I was just wanting a new coach but got swiftly convinced to compete at my first competition in February where I came second and caught the bug.

“I train four days a week and it generally consists of lots of heavy strength sessions and a wee bit of conditioning work.

 “I try to have a good work/life balance, so do uni work through the day and generally around 4pm I clock off and head straight to the gym.

“ I find I’m more productive and clear minded when I’m training alongside uni work as it’s beneficial physically and mentally.”

The stoats, possums and rats don’t know what they are up against, as our kiwi have got some powerful friends.





Brittany Graham on her way to the title

Brittany hoists a heavy sandbag.


Katie Pitt in action

Katie shows no sign of tiring.